US debates oil exports; Ukraine secures Russian gas; Solar gets cheap [Recharge]

A government report says US oil exports could actually benefit domestic consumers. Ukraine, Russia, and the EU avoid a humanitarian crisis by forging a deal to resupply Ukraine with Russian gas. Meanwhile, solar power prices keep on plunging. Catch up on the week in global energy with Recharge.

Matthew Brown/AP/File
A pump jack pulls crude oil from the Bakken region of the Northern Plains near Bainville, Mont.
Jared Gilmour/David J. Unger/Jake Turcotte/Staff

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Abundance: Too much oil is a better problem to have than not enough. Shipping some of the new US supplies overseas might ease some market inefficiencies and benefit consumers, according to a new government report. If Republicans win the Senate next week, that conclusion will serve as ammo for a push to roll back a decades-old oil export ban. But with oil prices dropping, and a boom built on debt, not everyone is sure the shale revolution is here to stay.

Thaw: UK natural gas prices are falling too, on the diminished threat of a winter in Ukraine without Russian gas. Kiev, Moscow, and Brussels finalized a deal Friday that would get Ukraine the gas it needs to keep Ukrainians from freezing in the coming months. If it holds, it will be a relief for all parties involved, and it presages a broader detente in a crisis that has dragged on for almost a year.

ParityThe recent devaluation of oil and gas is nothing compared to the plunging cost of solar. With current tax credits, solar electricity will be as cheap or cheaper than traditional power prices across 47 US states by 2016, according to a report this week by Deutsche Bank. The precipitous price drop should lessen the impact of diverted renewable investment that typically comes with cheaper fossil fuels.

In the pipeline

Tuesday, Nov. 4: ACROSS THE US – US midterm elections are held. If Republicans capture the Senate, a GOP House and Senate could together stymie Obama's climate agenda and move ahead with Keystone XL, oil and gas exports, and offshore drilling. But control of the upper chamber depends on a few critical races where energy is an outsize issue – from oil-rich Louisiana, to coal-heavy Kentucky (see palm card at right).

Wednesday, Nov. 5: NEW YORK and THE INTERNET – Prof. Yannis Maniatis, Greek energy and environment minister, talks energy security in the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy. New offshore gas finds, and a longstanding drive to expand a Southern Gas Corridor could help Europe diversify its energy supply.

Drill deeper

Is the US oil boom in trouble? [The Christian Science Monitor]
The collapse in global oil prices could mean trouble for US shale drillers, who rely on high prices to profit off expensive, labor-intensive drilling through shale rock. Rig counts have already suffered, and some challenge rosy projections of how much oil and gas is left. But increased productivity per well may boost shale's prospects, and crude prices would have to plunge further to halt US shale drilling all together.

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Russian oil: Between a rock and a hard place [The Financial Times]
In 2012, Exxon and Russian oil giant Rosneft forged partnerships that – had they materialized – would have helped open Russia's abudant stores of crude to foreign markets. But Western sanctions are putting that and other partnerships on ice, and without outside investment, the growth of Russia's oil industry will likely stall.

Oil gives Kurds a path to independence, and conflict with Baghdad
[The New York Times]
“I think Iraqi Kurdish independence is inevitable, at least eventually,” Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official, told the New York Times. “They have natural allies in the United States because of the oil companies involved in drilling there. And the Turks and Europeans need their gas.”

Energy sources

OIES: "[C]ountries in the Baltic region and southeastern Europe which are highly dependent on Russian gas, and hence extremely vulnerable to interruptions, could substatntially reduce and even eliminate imports of Russian gas by the early 2020s, by a combination of LNG supplies and pipeline gas from Azerbaijan. Similar measures could reduce (but not eliminate) the dependence of central Europe and Turkey on Russian gas."

OPEC secretary general Abdullah al-Badri via Reuters: "I don't think 2015 will be far away from 2014 in terms of [oil] production. There is nothing wrong with the market."

AAA: "[Saturday's] AAA national [gas prices] average: $2.995"

From oil prices to Ukraine gas talks to climate change, Recharge delivers global energy's big ideas to your inbox each Saturday. Subscribe for free.

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